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Is it over yet? A look at the elections

By Diane Joy Schmidt
Special to the Times


Now that all the shouting is mostly over, with the losers making a few feeble squeaks, we can look at where things are headed nationally and in the Southwest.

The Democrats have hung on to a majority in the U.S. Senate, with a 50 to 49 lead. This means, among other things, that President Biden can continue confirming judges.

The last senate race to be decided will not change that, as Vice President Kamala Harris holds a tie-breaking vote if the outcome is 50-50. Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and former football star Herschel Walker (R-Ga.) face a recount Dec. 6.

The U.S. House is expected to go to Republican control narrowly. As of this writing, Republicans need one more seat before the necessary 218 seats are reached, and currently, they have 217 to the Democrats’ 206 seats.

Sigh of relief

A split in Washington, D.C., between the House and Senate, may jam up the government’s works a bit. Still, Republicans were disappointed by the number of Trump-backed candidate races they lost, and for the moment, Democrats are feeling a rare sigh of relief.

Despite the poor showing by the Republican election deniers, it remains to be seen, after Trump announces his reelection bid Tuesday night from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, what lesson Republicans have learned.

President Biden accomplished a tremendous amount in his first two years. While his attempts to get bipartisan support were rebuffed, the country saw significant steps toward environmental improvements and the installation of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna).

Still, the world is heating up, and there is no sign of climate change slowing. With Russia’s attempts to control Ukraine and a cold winter ahead in Europe, we will likely see a clamor for more nuclear power plants as an energy source.

The nine-member Supreme Court has six conservative and three liberal judges. They are now hearing a case that challenges the Indian Child Welfare Act, established in 1978, to protect Native American children from a long history of being separated from their families and adopted out of their culture into white, Christian families.

All tribes are closely watching the case. The Biden Administration and five tribes are defending the law. At stake are the Indian Child Welfare Act and its more significant consequences. If the court rules against Native American adoption rights, it also could undo decades of laws established on the basis that tribes are sovereign nations.

At least one conservative judge, Neil Gorsuch, favors the Native position, and justice Brent Cavanaugh seems undecided. The three liberal judges are firmly in favor of defending the law. The decision is not expected until spring.

A look ahead

Significant issues are ahead for water in the Southwest, including water rights. Scientists have determined that the SouthwestÕs severe megadrought is the worst in 1,200 years. Protection for water in all its forms, including rivers and aquifers, will be an issue in the entire region.

New Mexico is seeing all blue, clear skies this week. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) was reelected, defeating TV weather reporter Mark Ronchetti. New Mexico has three congressional districts.

As a result of redistricting to represent the population more fairly, in the 2nd congressional district, incumbent Yvette Herrell (R) lost in a nail-biter to Gabriel Vasquez (D), and now the entire New Mexico congressional delegation going to Washington is a trifecta of Democrats.

Grisham is a strong pro-choice supporter of womenÕs health care and has also improved environmental protection. This summer, Grisham passed methane capping legislation developed with input from the gas & oil industry, which has set a new standard for the rest of the United States.

Also, in New Mexico, state constitutional Amendment 1 was passed to fund early childhood education. It will fund early childhood education and care and additional funds for public schools out of the state’s permanent fund.

New Mexico Rep. Anthony Allison, Navajo (District 4), who just won reelection, was an outspoken supporter of the measure and said this should mean raises for early childhood teachers as well as for all teachers and result in better retention of teachers.

This amendment will mean money to fund the New Mexico Indian Education Act adequately. It grew out of the consolidated Yazzie/Martinez case that in 2018 successfully challenged the state’s failure to provide students with programs for them to learn. Especially low-income, Native American, English language learners, and students with disabilities. The money is now there to support culturally sensitive programs.

New Mexico Native Vote joined with Vote Yes for Kids! to campaign to get out the vote to see its passage.

In Arizona, where vote counting is slow, finally, five days after the election, incumbent Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) declared a comfortable victory over former TV personality Kari Lake.
In Utah, as expected, virtually all federal and state races were won by Republicans.

In the race for southern Utah’s District 69, first-time candidate Davina Smith (D-Monument Valley), Navajo, made a credible showing, receiving 40% of the vote, against winner Republican Phil Lyman.


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